Resorts, casinos double down on Maryland gambling expansion

Max Smith, wtop.com

New disclosures show millions of dollars are being spent on both sides in the fight over whether to expand gambling to Maryland, even as other issues on the ballot may be flying a bit under the radar.

Disclosures filed with the Maryland Board of Elections Friday show Penn National Gaming has now contributed $18.1 million to the “Get the Facts” campaign against Maryland’s Question 7, the gambling expansion referendum that would allow a new casino in Prince George’s County and allow table games in the state.

MGM Resorts has contributed $11.4 million to “FOR Maryland Jobs and Schools,” the group supporting the ballot question, according to disclosure form filed with the board of elections.

Other groups have contributed to the ballot issue action committees and overall spending on Question 7 is on pace to exceed the $32 million spent in the 2006 gubernatorial race.

Penn National owns Maryland’s Perryville casino, as well as a casino not far from the Maryland border in West Virginia. MGM Resorts International struck an agreement this summer to build a casino destination at the National Harbor waterfront complex.

Area voters will see several local questions on the ballot in addition to the seven statewide ballot issues.

Anne Arundel County voters will see more questions than anyone else in the state. The 15 local questions include changes that would allow the County Council to remove the county executive or a county councilmember.

Anne Arundel County has dealt with several issues recently relating to allegations against County Executive John Leopold and Councilmember Daryl Jones.

Jones was convicted last year for failing to file dozens of federal income tax returns and he was sentenced to five months in a federal prison. However nothing in the county’s charter forced Jones to give up his seat despite the conviction.

Leopold was charged in March with four counts of misconduct in office and a count of fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary.

Prince George’s County voters have seven questions to vote on, including changes that would allow the County Council to adopt large contracts faster, and bond issues to pay for possible future projects that could include for libraries, county buildings, and public works projects.

In Montgomery County, voters will decide two countywide questions. Question A would allow the county to hire certain people with disabilities as part of a program within the merit system. Question B is a more high-profile referendum on collective bargaining for police employees. There is also a question for voters in Damascus to end the ban on alcohol sales there.

Howard County voters will see five local ballot questions covering issues from public access to records to the number of signatures needed to trigger a referendum.

Frederick County voters will see only one local ballot question about adopting the county’s new charter.

View the full list and the wording of the local and state-wide ballot questions here.

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